This year’s Champions League has finally served up the Round-of-16 ties, following much debate and a second draw. As usual, some appear to be extremely magnificent on paper, while others have disappointed fans.
Who is keeping an eye out for a surprise? Is Bayern Munich’s route clear? What about Real Madrid vs. PSG, one of the most anticipated matches of the year? Check out our Round-of-16 tie predictions here!
- RB Salzburg v Bayern Munich
On paper, this draw appears to be the one with a predetermined outcome. Salzburg did well to advance from their group, but Bayern Munich has become a ruthless machine under Nagelsmann.
The Bavarians have more quality in their team, as well as in their system, and should be the overwhelming favourites to beat the side from Austria.
- Benfica v Ajax
Both teams would be happy with a draw like this. Benfica and Ajax have snatched each other from the draw’s wealthier and more accomplished sides. This is a tough one to judge because both Benfica and Ajax appear to be very comparable on paper. Ajax’s recent tournament history, though, makes them modest favourites.
Benfica also has to fight with a tight domestic title competition, which might make things difficult for them. From the dugout, expect Erik Ten Hag to mastermind another Ajax dream run.
- Sporting v Manchester City
Sporting has made an incredible comeback to reach the last 16 after losing its first game 5–1 at home. Sporting has lost three of its six group games and has conceded 12 goals, and it would be a significant surprise if the Portuguese champion could hang out, even considering City’s occasional habit to miss opportunities.
Pep Guardiola has a habit of overcomplicating games in Europe because he is afraid of the opponent’s ability to counterattack, but that will not be the case here. City’s two losses in the group came in a strange match away to PSG and then in a dead rubber vs. Leipzig with the top spot already secured, and it has been in ominous form domestically recently.
- Chelsea v Lille
Chelsea finished second in the group after a sloppy draw away to Zenit in the final game, and there’s no question that Lille was the preferable option among the teams that had topped their groups that Chelsea was qualified to face. Chelsea was even luckier, as they drew Lille twice, once in the annulled draw and once in the true one.
Lille needed some time to adjust to the loss of manager Christophe Galtier after winning the league last season, but Jocelyn Gourvennec has recently demonstrated his ability to restore stability. Chelsea may find it difficult to break Lille down, but if it can reclaim the control that has typified Tuchel’s tenure, Lille will struggle to hurt the champion.
- Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
This tie has the potential to be one of the best in the UCL round. The redraw might be hailed as a win for both teams. In the redraw, Atletico Madrid dodged Bayern Munich, while Manchester United avoided star-studded PSG.
This might be a closely balanced encounter, with neither team displaying the kind of play that has carried them this far. While United would hope that Ralf Rangnick, their new coach, would have made some improvement by then, Atletico have looked like a shell of their old selves this season. Manchester United has a chance to advance to the next round.
- Villarreal v Juventus
Villarreal qualified for the round of 16 with a rain-delayed victory against Atalanta in Bergamo on matchday six, but Unai Emery’s side has a tendency of leaving it late to win.
In the group stage, Juventus were soundly defeated by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and they battled to 1-0 victories over Malmo and Zenit to finish first in Group H. Juventus should have the better squad, with strikers Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata, Moise Kean, and Federico Chiesa leading the way.
This will be a tough encounter, and Villarreal know how to win in Europe; of all the last-16 matches, this one has the best chance of going to penalties.
- Inter v Liverpool
Inter Milan is Italy’s last chance in the Champions League, and they face an even more difficult challenge ahead of them. Liverpool is a red-hot and high-flying team led by Mohamed Salah, who is arguably Europe’s finest forward this season. Furthermore, Liverpool is the third side to win every group stage match. They appear to be the most convincing team in the Champions League so far, having emerged from a tough group that included Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, and Porto.
It’ll be intriguing to see how they do against an Inter side that is still finding their feet this season.
- Real Madrid v PSG
Real Madrid had the worst luck, as the Los Blancos were initially assigned to Benfica, but were then assigned to PSG as their opponents. This is without a doubt the most important matchup of the round, and it will get the most interest from the soccer community.
Both teams are in first place in their respective leagues and have the biggest hopes in the UCL this season.
For the time being, we believe that Carlo Ancelotti’s experience will be crucial, and that the Spaniards will have the upper hand.